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Paleo Plans: Birthday Gift #2

I admire people who are willing to research and explore this world, reach a conclusion based on their experiences and learning, and then faithfully hold that unique, fact-based perspective even as the popular opinion clings to outdated science, sentimental tradition, and the status quo.

I am doing my best to raise my children so that they may each become that kind of person.

The two greatest accomplishments of my 34 years
& the reasons I continue to pursue the healthiest lifestyle possible.

 

I won’t lie. It’s not always easy. I need guides. I need muses. I need information. Luckily, there is no shortage of any of these in the Paleo community.

 

One such guide is Dave Asprey. Even though he is not officially affiliated with “Paleo,” he is, in my belief,  a primal living guru. He views himself as a biohacker and has spent considerable time and money figuring out with the world’s leading scientists and researchers what is best for the human body. His website is vast and detailed, and you can check out exactly what it means to be Bulletproof at The Bulletproof Executive.

I was initially a huge fan of Mr. Asprey’s because he helped his wife overcome PCOS with his “Upgraded” diet, which he details in his Upgraded Chef Cookbook.

What continues to interest me about Mr. Asprey is his “Bulletproof Coffee” recipe.

I LOVE coffee. To a fault. As in it could be the only thing I drink. So, in learning about the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee, I decided to gift myself the Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee Kit and give it a try.

My kit should arrive today, which means tomorrow morning is going to be Bulletproof. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

All my best for a terrific Tuesday, Lovelies!

 

 

Whole 30 Challenge, Days #4-7

And just like that a week is over! Phew! What a whirlwind of feel-goodness! All I can say to anyone who is wondering about a Whole 30 is to just take the leap already! In only one short week, my skin and eyes are clearer; my often difficult female cycle continues to run like clockwork (and is accompanied by STABLE–dare I say pleasant?–moods); and I can feel energy humming through my body! No sugar cravings nip at me; hunger pangs are a distant memory; and my sleep is both deep and refreshing. Oh. Yeah.

This is no longer a Whole 30 for me. I want this feeling of health and well-being to be my Whole Forever.

Here are the links to the book I am using as a guide, as well as the website that accompanies it! Both are fantastic resources to guide you on your own Whole 30 & beyond!

Click the book to learn how to get a copy of your own! And, don’t forget to explore the entire website while you’re there! The Whole 30 Program is outlined for you FREE online thanks to the amazing authors who truly have your health’s best interests at heart!

Rules Schmules…

I’m cranky and hungry today (probably b/c I’m celebrating a regular female cycle–32 days instead of 28, but, hey, for us PCOSers that’s like clockwork). And because of it, I’m feeling a little devilish. In fact, I feel like breaking the rules. (Okay, so that’s not too much different from every other day. Thanks for pointing that out, Lovelies). Anyway…a short story first.

Once upon a low carb diet in a tiny house near the woods, a very hungry and unhappy girl fell in love with Shakshuka. (Not sure what that is? Read up at Wikipedia. I promise it won’t take you but a moment). With every flavorful bite the girl smiled a little bigger and felt a little better. Her bland, repetitive diet would bother her no more now that she had the magic of Shakshuka in her recipe box. The End.

Okay, so that is a terrible story, and, obviously, the girl is me. The point is that through all the ups and downs of my dieting history, I’ve returned to this dish over and over again and made it many ways–adding in a little, taking out a little, etc. However, my long-standing favorite recipe (not 100% Paleo) for Shakshuka is from the Smitten Kitchen. Check it out! While you are there getting lost in the deliciousness, take a look at the volatile comment section. I’ll give you a minute…..

Welcome back!

Who knew, right!?!?!?!?!?!?  Such controversy over a simple dish of tomatoes, peppers, spices, and eggs!

Well, like I mentioned, I’m feeling rebellious today. So, instead of deciding where the dish came from and who deserves credit for the ingenious invention of this delicious eat, (because, in all honesty, I really don’t care where it came from as long as it winds up on my plate) I’m just going to celebrate its wonderfulness and make some!

Paleo purists, so that your opinions of me don’t change for the worse, please stop reading now (okay, at the end of the paragraph) and visit The Paleo Diet Lifestyle‘s site for their wonderful version of Shakshuka. You and your 100% commitment (which I truly admire) are more than welcome to return when I’m feeling better behaved. Today, sadly, is not that day.

Okay, that was my warning. If you’re a purist who is still reading, just know that you forfeit your right to leave finger-wagging comments and that I love you. XO

Deviant Shakshuka

There are no measurements. Go figure. (If you’ve ever cooked in my kitchen with me, you know what I mean!) Use the pics, my terrible descriptions, and ask questions if you need to. I promise, despite my mood, that I’ll be nice and answer them.

Heat a pan with olive oil and sauté diced onion, green bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms until they are done to your liking. Feel free to add-in whatever else you’d like, too. This is cooking, not science.

Add-in a can of San Marzano tomatoes to your sautéed veggies. Break-up the tomatoes with a spoon, your fingers (don’t burn yourself), or whatever instrument it takes, to get them to reduce down into a nice bubbly sauce. Be patient. This might take a little while. Add in the spices of your choice to your taste. (Wonderfully specific, I know.) I used cumin and turmeric and paprika. Lots of cumin.

Once you have the fragrant sauce of your dreams, make two wells and crack one egg into each. Actually, to be fair, this step goes more like this: Make a well, pick up an egg, make the same well, crack the egg, try to scrape some sauce out of the way as egg is falling into the pan. Repeat. Cover your entire pan with a lid and let the eggs poach to your preferred degree of yolk set.

Once your eggs are “set,” you have a choice. I am about to do the unthinkable for most Paleo purists. But, you know what? I don’t care. I RARELY do this, and darn it, I deserve to enjoy my favorite dish of all time. I am going to add an entire…

OUNCE (one WHOLE ounce!) of feta cheese to my Shaksuka. I’m letting it melt. MMMMMMMMMMM. Don’t hate. Don’t judge. Let me indulge, please.

I use basil to garnish; you can use parsley. Whatever makes your tastebuds sing!

Breakfast is served!
 

Thanks for letting me break the rules this morning, Lovelies. 100% tomorrow. Promise.

XO

Nikki

Paleo & PCOS TMI…

Okay, Lovelies. A little bit of revealing info today, so, if you are embarrassed by bodily functions, stop reading now….

…for those of you left, here we go.

Many people ask me, “Why Paleo?”

The easy answer is, “For many reasons.” However, in order to truly understand my reasoning, you need to understand my experience–I’ll attempt brevity.

Once upon a time, a decade ago, in September of 2002, I thought I was pregnant. At-home tests confirmed it, a blood-test confirmed it, initial OBGYN visit and uterine palpation confirmed it. Less scientific, but equally convincing, were my bouts of nausea and exhaustion, hormonal acne, and ridiculously sore and swollen breasts. (I was in a wedding while all this was happening, and I was terrified that they would swell right out of my bridesmaid’s dress). According to the popular pregnancy books, I’d done everything right: I scheduled appointments with my doctors, abstained from all the right foods and beverages, got adequate sleep at night, and lowered my stress levels.

All was going well until we went for what was to be our 12 week ultrasound and discovered that I was, in fact, not pregnant. Instead of seeing a 12-week-old fetus on the ultrasound screen, we saw my cyst-covered ovaries. I’d experienced a chemical pregnancy. A cruel trick of nature triggered by a bigger problem that threatened to prevent our future parenthood altogether: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

So, with discouraging words from my doctor, I began to research ways to avoid fertility treatments and still get pregnant.

Low-carbohydrate diets seemed to be the trick.

With full commitment, I jumped on the Atkins’ bandwagon, and I was more than happy to put back on the weight I’d lost to get pregnant while carrying our daughter to term. Taking the weight off after she arrived was not as easy as I’d hoped, so I turned to another low-carb diet a friend at work was using successfully.

While on the birth control pill to regulate my periods, and when our daughter was just eight months old, I lost twenty-five pounds on South Beach and discovered that I was (surprise!) pregnant with our son–the best unexpected news we’d ever heard!

Over the next few years, my weight fluctuated depending on how I ate. I met with various doctors and left them after they’d just prescribe me medication to control my PCOS symptoms. No one would listen to my desire to deal with the causes of my syndrome, but one doctor suggested trying a whole-foods vegan diet. It sounded easy enough, and, a high vegetable intake sounded great, so I embraced it for a year. I ate tons of vegetables, fruits, and grains, and I got really, really, really, fat and sick. I returned to the doctor’s office to be seen by a new doctor. Bloodwork revealed lots of scary things (amongst them, hypothyroidism, triglycerides over 700, and a fasting blood sugar of 105), and this new doctor recommended low-carb living to get me back under control. So, again, I took researching into my own hands. I knew that I responded well to a low-carbohydrate diet, but I wanted to find one that excluded dairy and focused on the quality of the food rather that the grams of carbohydrates each bite contained.

Paleo entered my life on August 1, 2012. With the help of a high-school acquaintance whom I now call friend, I began the journey at my sister’s home in TN, in preparation of bringing this lifestyle home to my husband. I wanted to have all the kinks and questions worked out so that when I arrived back home on August 10th, I’d be a Paleo guru for my family.

Well, guru status will be forever pending; however, my family has embraced this lifestyle, and all its benefits surround us. So just what are those benefits and “Why Paleo?” for this Cave Family?

  1. Metabolism–Our kiddos burn through fuel like crazy. They are (like most kids) incredibly active, but their intensive karate training schedule (4 days per week, a total of 5 hour-long classes) requires that they eat well to perform well and recover well and still have energy for kid-stuff. Cave Hubby (a hands-on electrical foreman) works ridiculous hours. He leaves for work by 5 AM each day and returns home around 5 PM, though in up-coming weeks it looks like his return will not be till 7 PM, and his work week will be six days instead of five. His work is both physically and mentally demanding. Obviously, he needs to fuel for performance as well. Since starting his Paleo journey with me, he has dropped about ten pounds (thanks, revved metabolism!) and has been eating MORE, yes, MORE. The key here, though, is that he’s been eating high-quality food. And, for me, though my work as an adjunct professor isn’t physically demanding, I place a lot of training stress on my body. Let me tell you, low-protein recovery is not fun! I’ve seen dramatic changes in my performance in under a month of Paleo-eating. And, yes, Lovelies, I suspect that in the next day or so I will be able to say that I’ve officially dropped twenty pounds!
  2. Hormonal Balance–After nearly five months without menstruating, I experienced a cycle this month–three weeks after starting Paleo. I did not need to have my female parts tricked with drugs into cycling! They did it all on their own thanks to the balancing act that’s going-on inside my body by eating whole, organic, grass-fed, pastured foods. Also, the cystic acne that so frequently ravages my jawline (another gem of PCOS) has all but disappeared. There are some healing scars, but no new damage–even during my period! My once-thinning hair is growing back, thicker and fuller and healthier, and I am back to a regular sleep/wake cycle.
  3. Wellness–I can’t ever remember feeling so centered and grounded. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. It is as if the fog I was wandering around in for so long has lifted and revealed a landscape I’d never realized existed. Most importantly, though, is that by our good examples and natural eating habits, my daughter might not have to experience PCOS first-hand. My son can prevent becoming a Type II diabetic. I refuse to treat the symptoms of PCOS with a lifetime of prescription drugs–I now prevent the symptoms altogether! We can stave-off heart disease and not claim genetic victimhood. We are active participants in the quality of our lives, and, Lovelies, life is good!

Wishing you all a great week ahead!

XO

Nikki

An “Interview” With the Perfectly Paleo Sisters

Since beginning our Paleo journey this summer, Erin and I have been asked any number of questions that range, if I’m being honest, from philosophical to far too personal; so, in the interest of getting to know you better, Lovelies, we thought we’d answer a few of the in-betweeners for you.

Ah, but there’s a catch! (You know I’m an educator, right? There’s always a catch–I can’t help it). We’d L-O-V-E love you, yes YOU, to answer the same questions for us in our “Comments” section. It’s there, so why not use it?!?!

Here we go.

Actually, sorry, before we start, please imagine either an incredibly handsome man or an insanely beautiful woman interviewing us, whichever you prefer. (Why, you ask? Because it will undoubtedly take your attention off of us!) Oh, and give him or her an accent–whatever makes your ears sing is just fine! Decided? Okay….

Here we really go!

Imaginary Interviewer of Your Choosing: Sisters, deciding to follow a primal diet is a controversial topic in some circles. What initially attracted you to the Paleo Lifestyle? And, how did you explain your decision to your families?

Sister #1: Oh, controversial isn’t the word! My family put me through the ringer on this one–lovingly, but still. Under the advice of a medical professional, I had been following a whole-foods, plant-based diet for nearly a year when my health started to deteriorate. I was exhausted to the point of having difficulty waking in the morning. I would sleep through my husband rising and showering in the morning, and then he would have to call me four or five times to make sure that I didn’t sleep through all three of my alarms. I was irritable, moody, and my hair was thinning at an alarming rate. I hadn’t had my period in quite some time (not abnormal with PCOS), and I was gaining weight almost as quickly as I was breaking-out in cystic, jaw-line acne. When I finally had blood work done, I discovered that my triglycerides were over 700, my total cholesterol was 205, my fasting blood sugar was 105, and that I had slipped into hypothyroidism. I decided that it was time for a change.

I spoke with a new doctor (Dr. Mc) who asked me to reflect on when I had felt the best in my life. My own answer shocked me: I had felt my best consuming a low-carb diet recommended to me by an endocrinologist while trying to conceive my children. A high-fat, meat-eating, low-carb diet, with plenty of vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, as well. Dr. Mc encouraged me to follow a similar pattern of eating to once again control my PCOS and triglycerides and to boost my thyroid function; however, I did not want to add dairy back into my diet. And meat. I had grown sympathetic to the images of horrible slaughterhouses and sick animals being cruelly treated; I was crusading to save innocent animals’ lives by eating rice, soy, wheat, corn, quinoa, millet, and oats–the very foods that were sky-rocketing my triglycerides with their high carb content and threatening my well-being and longevity. I was certainly conflicted about making what I felt was a hypocritical decision to eat meat again. I did some research, though, and then recalled that a high school friend had posted about her family’s wonderful successes eating “The Paleo Diet” on Facebook.

When I quickly scanned her Facebook page, she and her family looked absolutely radiant. Health poured out of them like sunshine, which was so unlike what I saw when I looked in the mirror after an entire year of eating whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, green juice, nuts, seeds, & legumes. (Healthy stuff, right!?!?!?! Who knew it was not the right diet for me?!?!?!?) I was immediately attracted to the obvious benefits of Paleo, so I reached out to her, and she graciously shared her knowledge with me–which I immediately passed on (because I wouldn’t shut-up about it for two seconds) to Erin…who, luckily, was equally excited by the possibilities!

Once I had Erin on board, the rest of my family fell-into Paleo-mode quite easily and without much convincing, but they let loose their fair share of ribbing (they are happy to be enjoying those again) to be sure! And, now, I am happy to say that my children (ages 6 and 8) will freely articulate the benefits that they feel by living grain- and dairy-free and mostly sugar-free.

Sister #2: Ok…. How to tell you about me without writing a 300 page biography…Ever since I was about thirteen I have suffered with Vaccine-Induced Systemic Lupus.

“Vaccine Induced?” you ask.

Yes, it is exactly that.

Without naming names, I was part of a pharmaceutical study and my lucky end-result was Lupus. So, instead of throwing my hands up in the air and waving the white flag after I’ve had several vials of blood sucked out of my body every six months for the past 15 years, been examined repeatedly by seven medical specialists, filled innumerable prescriptions, and endured multiple other health issues spawned from Lupus, I have decided that I want to be the healthiest I can be.

Nikki shared with me The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf which explains in great detail how autoimmune deficiencies and diseases can be healed and/or controlled by following a primal diet. That is important to me, especially now that I have a baby girl whom I was told I would NEVER HAVE (due to Lupus, of course)!

My husband may think I am crazy for changing my diet yet again (and that’s fine with me, after all we are all a little ‘mad’), but he is supportive and will join me in this second major dietary change in my life’s adventure. Going gluten-free when we learned I was celiac was hard….so, going Paleo should be a cinch!

Imaginary Interviewer (don’t forget to add the sexy accent): So, it sounds like you both are primarily drawn to the Paleo Lifestyle for the health benefits. Do you have any goals concerning your health, such as improvements that you’d like to see?

Sister #2: Aside from the obvious, here is my lovely list of medical drama that I hope to dismiss from my life by going Paleo:

  • Lupus
  • Chronic Migraines
  • Thyroiditis
  • Periocarditis
  • Celiac (at least heal my insides)
  • Proteinuria
  • Eczema
  • Anemia

Plus, I would love to not have to spend over 3k on blood work every 6 months. AND I would love to never have to see the pharmacy again! I would also like to lose a little excess weight (who wouldn’t?) and just feel better!

You know, my family is my life. I am a Mother and a Wife; I love my Great Dane, Astro, who is like a small pony, and my fat cat ,Yoda; I’m a photographer; I run two Direct Sales businesses–Thirty-One Gifts & Origami Owl; I love philanthropy. I plan on Paleo helping me keep myself as healthy as possible so that I don’t leave this world before I am ready to, like so many people with Lupus do.

Sister #1: My first goal is to just be a good example for my children. I want to be healthy for them. I want them to see me making healthy choices, being active, participating in family adventures without physical ailments or limitations. Right now they are learning how to navigate this crazy world, and there are so many unhealthy options out there. I want to see them grow into individuals who are strong enough to think for themselves when it comes to health and nutrition and not confuse the SAD’s colorful boxes and appealing characters with what will actually best serve their bodies and minds.

For myself, I’ve already seen an improvement in my weight, my skin, my PCOS symptoms, and my energy levels, so I’ll be happy to have the benefits I’m already experiencing continue. I will be having some blood work done in the near future to check my triglycerides, total cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, etc. I look forward to marked improvement in all areas!

Imaginary Interviewer: Is there anything else either of you would like to add about yourselves or your Paleo journeys?

Sister #2: There are some things I think we both hope Paleo helps us avoid….. following in our father’s footsteps, for sure!  He has suffered a heart attack, endured quintuple bypass surgery, had a stroke, has type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism (used to be hyper), and a bunch of other health issues.

Also, my daughter is only 5 months old and starting to venture into foods, which is a fun, messy experience! Will I have her eat the Paleo way? OF COURSE! Why wouldn’t I want to give her the best and healthiest start to life?! Right now we do the organic baby foods, and I will be getting the Baby Bullet to provide her with her first meats when she is ready. (The meat in a jar thing just doesn’t sit well. Where does that stuff even come from–ew!) Also, she has a chance of having an auto-immune disorder just like me, and that is one feature of mine I hope she doesn’t get!

So, look for adventures in Bebe Paleo from me!

Sister #1: I totally agree with Erin. Our Dad has joined us in eating whole, organic vegetables, fruits, grass-fed, wild-caught, or pasture raised foods, and has already noticed a difference in his blood sugar levels. If he had discovered this way of eating sooner, perhaps he could have minimized or avoided so many of his health concerns. I’m proud of him for taking control of his health through diet. It is a major accomplishment for anyone to just begin reclaiming that power.

I also feel it necessary to say that finding what works for your body is important and, sometimes, difficult. Choosing the Paleo Lifestyle is a very emotionally charged decision, downright polarizing, really. I have vegan friends who feel very strongly for the animals I have once again started eating, and probably harbor some disdain for my return to the knife. I understand that. However, this was not a decision made lightly after little consideration. It was a decision based on what dietary choices were correct for my own health and the health of my family. I accept and respect that this lifestyle may not be for everyone.

Although, a common misconception is that the Paleo Lifestyle is only meat-focused. Vegetables are eaten in abundance! I love vegetables! Fruits are eaten in moderation according to an individual’s own tolerance. Gorgeous berries! Apples! Citrus! Paleo also welcomes healthy fats–avocados, nuts, seeds, and unrefined oils such as olive oil and coconut oil. And, yes, there is grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, & organic, free-range fowl.To be clear, though, the vast majority of people who live a strict Paleo Lifestyle do not support the slaughterhouses with which our US meat supply is so closely associated. Most of us source it from local farmers or stores who sell those farmers’ products. So, please, my dear vegan friends, don’t hassle me about that. I’m on your side about factory farming. Promise.

Phew! That’s a lot of info!

Now, help us learn a little bit more about you! In the “Comments” section, feel free to answer the same questions about your own Paleo journeys!

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